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By Joe Taglieri
Despite a somewhat late entry into the race for the 5th District seat on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, Mitchell Englander’s candidacy is quite possibly on a course toward front-runner status – at least as far as campaign contributions go.
After declaring in late April his intention to run against the field of eight other hopefuls vying for the office held for 36 years by term-limited Supervisor Michael Antonovich, the Los Angeles city councilman recently announced he has received more than $580,000 as of June 30.
“I have been energized and humbled by the overwhelmingly positive response from so many this early in the campaign,” Englander said in a statement. “It is clear that community leaders throughout Los Angeles County, along with 5th District citizens, understand the high stakes of this election.”
The fundraising announcement released last week credits a “deep network of supporters and robust campaign operation” as key factors for such a financial windfall in just 10 weeks.
“This campaign finance report sends a clear message – not only will Mitchell Englander have the resources to win, but that a broad network of supporters from all walks of life are coalescing around his candidacy as a clear frontrunner in this race,” said Josh Pulliam, Englander’s chief campaign strategist.
The Los Angeles Times reported Sunday that Englander leads all other contenders in fundraising during the first half of the year. Kathryn Barger, Antonovich’s chief of staff, raised nearly $515,000; county prosecutor Elan Carr reported just over $426,000; State Sen. Bob Huff (R-Diamond Bar) raised more than $264,000; and Glendale City Councilman Ara Najarian netted about $114,000.
But aside from fundraising prowess, in an interview Englander emphasized his deep political experience bolstered by a keen sense of overcoming adversity as key aspects of his background that will attract voters when the polls open for the race’s primary election in June 2016.
“I’ve been through a lot in my life and as an elected official, as president pro tem of the largest city in the state of California and the second largest city in the country, I’ve not only been through personal experiences but I have the experience in leading that effort on a large scale,” Englander said, noting a number of family tragedies that have shaped his perspective as a lawmaker.
“I lived and breathed every service the county provides or should be providing,” Englander said. “I was raised by a single mom who lost our home. My brother went into foster care. My uncle was killed as part of an initiation into a gang – there was an attempted robbery and he was the victim. My sister died because she couldn’t get access to an emergency room because the emergency room was full, and my mom passed away because she didn’t have access to affordable health care.”
Englander, who was first elected to the L.A. City Council in 2011 and represents the area of the northwest San Fernando Valley where he was born and raised, also pointed to his record as a small-business owner.
“I know what it’s like to sign the front of a paycheck, not just the back of a paycheck,” Englander said. “I know what it’s like to make payroll, to not take a paycheck so I can pay my own employees. I know what it’s like for small local companies that are struggling, the … job creators throughout the county that we so desperately rely on. That critical partnership between business, labor and government is so important. I’ve been there and I get it.”
Englander has worked in the crisis management field and provided communications services for “a variety of industries, nonprofits and universities,” he said.
The candidate has also served on more than 20 nonprofit boards including the American Diabetes Association, New Directions for Youth, the YMCA, and Boys and Girls Club.
In addition to a sharp focus on job creation, economic growth and transportation infrastructure, Englander highlighted his similarly keen awareness of public safety as a leading issue on the minds of voters and officials throughout the county.
“It’s really about restoring communities throughout the 5th District,” Englander said. “As it relates first and foremost to public safety, as the chair of the Los Angeles Public Safety Committee and a reserve Los Angeles police officer, I’ve dedicated my life to protecting communities and making sure that we have the resources, the boots on the ground and the community engagement and partnership block by block to make sure that we’re safe in every one of our communities.”
Some notable challenges in the near term include reducing the strain on the county’s overcrowded jail facilities and “restoring the credibility of the badge and the Sheriff’s Department” through efforts such as community-based policing programs, Englander said.
He also has observed a “disconnect” between county residents and local service providers.
“Another major issue we’ve got is, quite frankly, restoring faith and accountability in local government,” Englander said. “A lot of people in this county, for whatever reason, don’t even know what a county supervisor is or what the services are that they do provide. …
“Whether you’re a homeowner making sure that you have accurate information on your property assessments, whether you’re a senior in need of health care and services, whether you’re a homeless veteran and you need services for homeless housing and programs, foster youth – there are so many issues that touch so many lives in the county, but most people don’t know how to access those services or know what those services are,” Englander added.
Though county board membership is officially a nonpartisan office, a strong likelihood is that whoever becomes the next 5th District supervisor will be the only politically conservative panel member.
“I’ve been elected unanimously as the president pro tem of the Los Angeles City Council, one of only two elected positions” chosen by fellow council members, said Englander, the lone Republican on the city’s 15-seat dais.
“I’m also the only candidate in every one of my elections who has been supported by both labor and business,” he continued. “It’s not enough to try to be the lone vote and try to stand out. You actually have to get things done with the ability to compromise without giving up your values, and stand firm on your position but modify and amend various pieces of policies, legislation and budgeting. … I’ve got a track record of doing that.”
Englander, 45, lives in Granada Hills with his wife of 22 years Jayne and teenage daughters Lindsey and Lauren.
The 5th District spans the Antelope, Crescenta, Santa Clarita, San Fernando and San Gabriel Valleys and represents nearly 2 million residents.